SUV-ival of the fittest
Volvo’s new all-wheel drive dominates the pack, writes PAUL GOVER
AUSTRALIANS are gorging on a feast of quality SUVs. The all-wheel-drive wagon menu has never been tastier, more varied or more satisfying. This week’s test is the Volvo XC60, officially Australia’s safest new car, but I cannot assess the Swedish SUV without thinking of all the newcomers — the Nissan Murano, Audi Q7, the latest Lexus RX — as well as such benchmark cars as the Volkswagen Tiguan, Renault Koleos, Mazda CX-7 and even the Toyota RAV4. It’s a lot to consider — and to digest. So, to get to the bottom at the top, the XC60 is one of the very best.
It’s not as flashy as the Murano or as sporty as the CX-7, and it cannot really go off-road or beat the Tiguan for value.
But nothing in the SUV line-up can top the class in every subject, so the Volvo scores solidly in every area, taking it to a classleading result. And, as you expect, it has Volvo safety. The XC60 follows several earlier XC efforts, including the giant 90, as one of the latest arrivals in the SUV pack. It edged out its closest competitor today, the German Q5, but not by much.
Arriving late means Volvo has had a lot of time to do its work on the 60. The result is a vehicle built up from a super-sturdy basic body, then tweaked with everything from luxury leather and classy sound to a couple of impressive engines and all the safety stuff — including a City Safety system designed to prevent low-speed city smacks, with driver warning and automatic braking intervention.
The range, as do so many diesel-driven Euro brands these days, opens with a turbodiesel XC60 from $57,950 and works up to the 3-litre T6 with a petrol in-line six-cylinder.
But a lot more can be added to fluff the pillows and pad the bottom line.
The XC60 has the potential to become Volvo’s bestseller in Australia, though the numbers are taking a while to build. Only 116 were delivered last month, against 154 for the XC90 and 140 for the Q5, but supplies are tight around the world and it’s going to take a while to fill the pipeline.
To put the XC60 into perspective, it’s a midsized SUV — think Holden Captiva or Hyundai Santa Fe— but with a big-car feel. Its specification puts it solidly into the luxury SUV category, which includes the Lexus, Range Rover, Benz ML and Porsche Cayenne.
The difference is it’s priced sensibly — less than $60,000 to start with. Even the basic turbodiesel has all the suspension, transmission and safety stuff you’ll need.
I preferred the diesel to the petrol six during a drive from Canberra over the Alps to Albury, and it would still be the car I would try first. But diesel prices move around, many are not convinced of the green credentials, the grotty pumps are a turn-off and you need to run more than 30,000km a year to get the real benefits.